Culture shapes how we think of ourselves and others. The current culture is one of the most prominent causes of dehumanization of people everywhere. We are called to shape the culture in a way that respects life at all stages.
By Sonja Morin, MCFL Intern
This week, pro-lifers everywhere are celebrating the anniversary of one of the most significant documents to grace the movement: Evangelium Vitae, or The Gospel of Life.* It has been referred to as one of the best summations of the beliefs of the pro-life movement, not only citing its concerns but creating a structure for activism. The document gives a particular focus on culture, demonstrating the importance of culture to upholding human dignity, as well as a culture’s instrumental role in shedding light on how society dehumanizes many of our most vulnerable members today. Evangelium Vitae spurs on those of us involved in the culture to challenge and change the norms that are present in our world today, so that a culture of life may be restored.
Evangelium Vitae was written by Pope John Paul II, a stalwart of the pro-life movement during the twentieth and early twenty-first century. Pope John Paul II used his experiences and belief in human dignity to advocate for those without a voice throughout his papacy, and this encyclical is a shining example. Ever a masterful writer, John Paul II identifies the issues that plague the world as a result of a cultural dehumanization of our vulnerable, and reviews underlying causes of these attitudes, and what may be done to remedy them. While it is a document created by the leader of the Catholic Church, Evangelium Vitae is truly a document meant for “all people of good will” to consider in terms of human dignity and rights.
What does this document have to say for us, twenty-five years later? It turns out that Pope John Paul II’s words ring truer still for our current situation than perhaps they did upon the first release of the encyclical.
- Culture shapes how we think of ourselves and others.
When Pope John Paul II identifies culture as one of the root causes of dehumanization in the modern world, he recognizes the force of culture in shaping minds and hearts. Culture is not just a system of products and creations; rather, it is a set of beliefs shared by people. These beliefs then stream into the literature, art, and other works people can experience and partake in together. Whether good or bad, these cultural norms and their effects shape our national and global community in how we perceive ourselves and each other.
2. The current culture is one of the most prominent causes of dehumanization of people everywhere.
It is in this document that Pope John Paul II refers so prominently to the “culture of death” the world has inherited. The international culture promotes the idea that value is not objective; rather, it can fluctuate at any time based on anyone’s belief or emotion. If one does not have consistent value, then it does not matter whether someone disregards their dignity or not. One does not have to relate to others, or help them in times of need. One can control life and its effects. One can decide whether the life of another is worth continuation or not. These sad beliefs are the reality of the culture which has taken root in our world.
3. We are called to shape the culture in a way that respects life at all stage.
In the last sections of Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II begs that the people of the world reinstate a “culture of life” for all. This comes first from reversing the beliefs that have too long held grip in our institutions. We must always seek to promote the dignity of life, not only in what we say, but also in how we act towards others. Our love for all people will certainly speak louder. No matter what stage of life we are in, nor what our occupation in life is, we can certainly incorporate these attitudes into our lives. Our action on a day to day basis can - and will - impact the culture.
Cheers to this twenty-fifth anniversary of Evangelium Vitae--a document that does not merely point out the issues of our time, but offers concrete solutions by which anyone may promote the pro-life message of human dignity and value. May the words of Pope John Paul II continue to inspire us as we move forward into such a crucial time for the defense of all life.
We invite you to join MCFL today and begin to challenge and change some concrete aspects of our society in Massachusetts, and restore respect for women, the unborn, and the elderly, vulnerable, or differently abled.
By Dr. Mark Rollo, MCFL Board Member
Regarding the recent letter from Don P. Perez, MD [ in the Worcester Telegram ] I must respectfully yet strenuously disagree. His letter opined that in spite of the coronavirus outbreak state legislators must move forward on passing H. 1926 and S. 1208 which would legalize physician assisted suicide (PAS) in Massachusetts. Actually, it is because of the coronavirus outbreak that we can see the dangers of PAS.
PAS creates a financial incentive to steer people toward suicide. This has already happened in states which have legalized PAS. In some of these states insurance companies and Medicaid have refused to cover expensive therapies but have offered to cover inexpensive suicide pills. The economic pressures exerted by the coronavirus outbreak will only accentuate the temptation to steer the poor, people with disabilities and minorities toward suicide.
Dr Perez noted that nine states have passed PAS laws. However, during the same time period, 30 states have rejected PAS. The supposed absence of abuses in Oregon is an empty statement due to the lack of mandated reporting on PAS. We know that people in Oregon have been steered toward suicide. Barbara Wagner of Oregon is just one of many examples. Medicaid refused to cover expensive chemotherapy for her advanced lung cancer but indicated her suicide pills would be covered.
As a member of the Massachusetts Medical Society, I am embarrassed that MMS has opted for neutrality when it comes to protecting the public from PAS.
The American Medical Association continues to rightly strongly oppose PAS as should lawmakers.
Make your voice heard for the vulnerable. Tell your legislator you oppose H. 1926 and S.1208 by emailing and calling the Joint Committee on the Public Health today.
FIND CONTACT INFORMATION FOR THE JOINT COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC HEALTH AT THIS LINK: Chair and Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health.
Support our continued advocacy by donating today: Secure Donation Here.
Despite Massachusetts' Gov. Baker's ban on elective surgical procedures during the state of emergency surrounding the COVID-19's outbreak, Planned Parenthood has again put abortion promotion before women's safety. And not just women's safety -- the abortion industry giant has decided it's more important to abort than maintain safe social distancing during the pandemic.
In the New Boston Post report, MCFL is quoted:
We were disheartened to learn that, upon Governor Baker’s approval, elective abortion will still be permitted in the coming weeks, even while other elective surgeries have been prohibited due to the coronavirus pandemic. Women’s health and safety should be our top priority now, as always. Risking exposure to the highly contagious disease during visits to abortion clinics not only puts our women at risk but their families and those of clinic workers as well. This is yet another indication that the once-popular abortion-rights mantra ‘safe, legal, and rare’ is a complete farce. In the face of a global pandemic, the abortion industry once again demonstrates that protecting women’s health has never been its priority. Instead, the abortion lobby’s singular goal is to increase the bottom line, even at the expense of risking the health and wellbeing of those who enter their clinics and those who work at them during these unprecedented times.
MCFL President, Myrna Maloney Flynn, also spoke with reporters from The Daily Caller, where she offered a similar comment. It is critical to note the following:
We would like to invite you to write the governor in these challenging times, expressing your concern.
His office can receive email and phone calls at the following address:
ATTN: Governor Charlie Baker, Massachusetts State House, Beacon St #280, Boston, MA 02133
Planned Parenthood, in their healthcare capacity, should be doubly aware of the risks during COVID-19. To insist on performing abortions is to insist that a woman's life has less value than that of the male population. That is not the spirit of our Commonwealth, and it is radically opposed to the fundamental fact of equal rights.
Whether pro-life or pro-choice, we have an obligation to speak out and speak up. One voice--yours--could very well save hundreds of preborn lives, along with as many lives of our born fellow citizens.
By Sonja Morin, MCFL Communications Intern
Even before the screen brightens, the jazz music softly enters, quiet but bright. It rises as the screen fades to a shade of blue reminiscent of the ocean. Watercolors overlap footage of daily life - people walking, trading, exchanging stories - and images of Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A woman’s humming joins the calming jazz, floating with the melody. She sings no words in particular. The swirling imagery and music crescendo, enveloping the audience in its thoughtful embrace.
This is the way in which the 2019 documentary Humanité: The Beloved Community introduces itself to the audience. This masterful documentary, directed by Jim Hanon, unfolds as an exploration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of “the beloved community”: the idea that all people can share in brotherhood despite their diverse circumstances and backgrounds. Specifically, the documentary ponders how music ties people together, even from across the world. Kirk Whalum, a Grammy-award winning musician from Memphis, introduces the idea of the beloved community as he first experienced it growing up. His father worked in the civil rights movement of the 1960s along with Dr. King, right up to the point where the latter was assassinated mere blocks away from their home.
The telling of his story then gives way to others’ as well. Musicians from across the world explain how music has served as a unitive element. “Music… incorporates strands of man in so many different ways”, one recounted. As the stories unfold in Humanité, those strands become clear. For some, it brought musicians out of addiction, destitution, and other struggles. Others testified that music helped them find friends and make connections. Still others felt that music is a conduit of self-expression, while at the same time allowing understanding between performer and listener. The communion between people that is made manifest in music is, quite literally, often beyond words.
The direction and artful interplay of visuals with sounds blend together to immerse the audience in the intertwined stories being presented. The imagery is always tinted a cool shade of blue, much like the aforementioned opening credits. This common thread, no matter the setting, ties together the visuals in a shade that is often used to represent peace and unity. An unusual technique utilized in Humanité is the overlap of footage with still photos, often of Dr. King or Nelson Mandela. This is used at poignant points in the documentary, to demonstrate how the ideas of these deceased leaders are still living in those who seek to be the beloved community. The music swells and decreases, but is always present. Often without words, it allows an audience of diverse languages to enjoy the mood being conveyed without having to decipher lyrics. Not only are the visual and audial elements utilized in such a way that it is pleasing to the audience, but it masterfully sweeps up the audience in the embrace of the conveyed ideals of the beloved community.
The end of Humanité dwells on the lines in Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” regarding the common brotherhood of man. Whalum recounts a particular phrase in the Letter: “If not now, when?” He points out that, despite our great ability to connect with others, we have become more isolated as an international community. If we do not form that bridge to communion with others now, then when? How long will we wait before we recognize the dignity of our brothers and sisters across the world, or close to home, no matter their circumstances? This question is left lingering at the end of the documentary, but not without a realization: that community is possible, even in our stratified and disconnected world. We have the opportunity to create this communion which we, as humans, naturally desire. But it is up to us to create that union, and reach out to those around us in the here and now.
By Myrna Maloney Flynn, MCFL President
We fight on the side of the angels. - Patricia Stewart
During these unprecedented days of sudden uncertainty and constantly-changing information, I write today to share reassuring news—a happy announcement that underscores MCFL’s organizational strength and, more importantly, the role you play in ensuring its lifesaving contributions within the Commonwealth.
It is my sincere pleasure to welcome Patricia (Pat) Stewart back to MCFL to resume her role as executive director.
Pat will be responsible for the day-to-day management of MCFL’s offices and our staff. She’ll work closely alongside me and other officers to execute our comprehensive strategy, with a focus on achieving long-term value, growth, and progress as we work on your behalf to open minds and soften the hearts of those around us.
“I am thrilled to be rejoining MCFL’s team of dedicated pro-lifers as we continue its decades-long tradition of defending the cause of LIFE,” Pat told me this week. “More than ever before, the sanctity of life is under attack in ways we never imagined possible—killing abortion survivors, hastening the death of the elderly, and encouraging the suicide of the seriously ill. Despite this dark moment in time, however, I am confident that MCFL and its legion of supporters will prevail. After all, we fight on the side of the angels.”
Michael Wiseman, MCFL clerk and member of the Board’s Personnel Committee, which unanimously supported recruiting Pat, previously worked with her and says, “Everything I ever saw Pat Stewart do was very professionally done. I don’t think I could come up with a better recommendation for a candidate for the job.”
Another longtime member of our family, Matt Hanafin, says, “I had the pleasure of working under Pat when she first joined the team as the executive director in 2013, when I was MCFL’s director of outreach. Now, as a member of MCFL working in DC, I am excited to see her back at the helm. Her professionalism, diligence, and passion to help society’s vulnerable will lead MCFL to accomplish great things.”
A native of North Attleboro, Pat has practiced law in Massachusetts for over 35 years. After 25 years as a trial lawyer in the area of aviation law, representing victims of aircraft accidents, she turned her attention to health care. In 2007, she authored and published The Health Care Decision Guide for Catholics, a how-to for patients and caregivers seeking to make medical choices in accord with Catholic teaching.
For the past 12 years, she has instructed lay and religious audiences throughout Massachusetts on end-of-life issues, advance health-care planning, and developments in health-care law affecting patient rights.
As former executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Pat drafted and filed pro-life legislation, testified in numerous state legislative committee hearings, and advocated on behalf of every individual’s right to life from conception to natural death. Through her legal work, Pat has continued her mission in support of life, representing patients and families confronting claims of medical futility or denial of medical care.
Currently, Pat serves on the Board of Directors of the Pro-Life Legal Defense Fund and is an Allied Attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom. She makes her home in Norwell, Massachusetts.
Our ability to welcome Pat to our hardworking staff is a direct result of your generous support. Thank you for believing in our mission. Thank you for your confidence in our team. And thank you for your membership commitment.
To our members and advocates for life,
We understand that many of you are concerned about coronavirus (COVID-19), especially in wake of the governor's declaration of a state of emergency.
At this point, we have cancelled the Convention, taking into consideration Boston College's closure. The March 18th Lobby Day is being moved to a remote event (see my next weekly email for details). The April 2nd lobby day at the State House is also cancelled in light of the state shutting down all outside events on Beacon Hill.
Currently, our Mother's Day Dinner featuring Dr. Alveda King will still go forward in Holyoke, MA.
If anything changes, and we believe the safety of our members is at risk, we will be in touch with more updates on our later Spring calendar of outreach events.
Your health and safety, along with the health and safety of the little ones we seek to protect, is our top priority.
This situation may evolve over the next few weeks, and we’ll continue to provide all pertinent updates. For additional questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to our team by replying to this email.
Stay safe, savvy, and remember that even if you're settled at home away from the virus, you can still call and email our lawmakers using this easy to follow call script.
Yours for the most vulnerable,
C.J. Williams, Director of Community Engagement
Massachusetts Citizens for Life
On Friday, February 21st, members, including our communications intern, Sonja Morin, gathered on the beautiful Boston College campus to watch a film.
The documentary, featuring Grammy award-winning artist, Kirk Whalum, is Humanite: The Beloved Community. Produced and distributed by Minus Red, a film studio whose mission is uncommon stories, common threads, the film pays homage to Martin Luther King Jr. through both sonic and visual weaving of Kirk's original music and a startling diverse supporting range of musicians and artists.
For Massachusetts Citizens for Life, the the clear theme of shared humanity was particularly relevant. The documentary threads its narration with stories of the civil rights movement. But it digs deeper than a single moment in history.
It looks at history through the lens those common threads that arise at different eras and in different nations -- the stories that remind us of our shared humanity. More than that, it neatly illustrates the way in which artists see and embrace other, integrating disimilarities with love rather than fear. We are more alike than we think; we are more different than we ever need to fear.
The takeaway? Born, or preborn; black or white; American or Malaysian; well or differently-abled, we are a beloved community, a family.
This theme gave rise to what was perhaps the highlight of the evening: A lively and thorough discussion of human rights, opposition to abortion, and building relationships in Boston, Worcester, Western Massachusetts, and beyond.
Boston College pro-life club leaders agreed that when they stand outside Planned Parenthood, relationship -- building that bridge to the woman or man entering the building even in a split-second -- was what mattered.
After all, how can you ask a woman to see her child, if she doesn't see herself as worthy of life?
One member recalled just asking and listening to a girl's story, and when they finished talking, she left without going in for her appointment.
Others touched briefly on the legal aspects of outreach and public sidewalks. The conversation veered into planning, and then into the beauty of engaging in art that can turn hearts and make those marginalized see and feel their place in the beloved community.
by Steven Hardy, MCFL Member, Boston
The 40 Days for Life Bosto 2020 Campaign Launch was held at Saint Catherine of Siena parish in Norwood on February the 23rd. A Mass was celebrated by Fr. Michael McNamara, followed by a powerful talk from Patricia Sandoval, known as the primary voice for the preborn, and women healing after abortion, in Mexico.
At the Mass, Fr. McNamara delivered a homily in which he touched on our responsibilities towards those in need, particularly the preborn, as well as the need to show love towards our friends and neighbors who believe abortion should be legal.
Following the Mass, Patricia Sandoval shared the heart-wrenching story of her upbringing, which lead to three abortions, a brief stint working at a Planned Parenthood facility, and a rock-bottom in drug use and homelessness. It was at that bottom, feeling utterly lost, that she recalled a childhood memory, and began to pray.
She then recounted how the answer to that prayer -- one stranger -- changed everything for her.
While crying and praying with her eyes closed and her head downcast, she all of a sudden felt a firm and warm embrace. She opened her eyes to see a waitress from a restaurant across the street who had seen her and felt compelled to help. This proved to be the turning point for Patricia. The waitress helped her to reunite with her mother, who had also been praying for this for some time.
Mrs. Sandoval’s incredible story is a testimony of the power of how the actions of one person can have an enormous impact. That waitress not only saved Patricia’s life by acting out of love for a stranger in distress, but by sharing her story, Patricia is likely saving the lives of countless others by inspiring us to be that one stranger who acts out of love for a woman in distress about to enter an abortion facility.
Have you joined the MCFL-sponsored 40 Days Vigil in your community?
SIGN UP FOR YOUR HOUR: 40 Days in Boston
Look up Boston, Worcester, Beverly, and Springfield here.
Be the one who makes a difference -- Join MCFL today.
by Dr. Mark Rollo, MCFL Board Member
The stated mission of Massachusetts Citizens for Life is to defend life from conception to natural death.
Physician Assisted Suicide is NOT a natural death. Proponents try to sanitize this practice with phrases like “medical aid in dying,” and “death with dignity,” however, there is nothing dignified about suicide, and there is nothing dignified about a doctor writing a prescription to end a patient’s life.
Palliative care and hospice seek to end suffering while a person dies a natural death. Physician Assisted Suicide seeks to end the life of the suffering person. There is a huge and culture transforming difference.
Among the many evils of Physician Assisted Suicide which include the corruption of medicine, the slippery slope toward active and involuntary euthanasia as has happened in the Netherlands and the general rise in suicide, state sanctioned assisted suicide will disproportionately affect the poor, minorities, and those with disabilities.
Barbara Wagner, a woman in her 60s, received a letter from Medicaid of Oregon stating her advanced lung cancer treatment would not be covered but her suicide pills would be.
Stephanie Packer of California, a 29 year old mother of four with a progressive lung disease, received a letter from her insurance company stating that her expensive medication would no longer be covered but her cheap suicide pills would be covered. She received this letter after Physician Assisted Suicide became legal in California. In this regard she gave testimony last summer before the Massachusetts Joint Committee of Public Health regarding S.1208 and H.1926, which would legalize Physician Assisted Suicide in Massachusetts.
Stephanie, center, with her family. (photo credit: NY Post)
Decision time regarding these disastrous bills is upon us. We need to contact our state senators and representatives as well as committee members of the Joint Committee on Public Health. We need to tell them that we do not want the vulnerable among us, like Barbara Wagner and Stephanie Packer, steered toward suicide.
This week, please take a few minutes to email, call, and write stating your objections to physician assisted suicide (S.1208 and H.1926):
Committee Chair, Sen. Jo Comerford
24 Beacon St., Room 413-C
Boston, MA, 02133
Committee Vice Chair, Sen. Nick Collins
24 Beacon St., Room 312-D
Boston, MA, 02133